Legends and Fables from Around The World

June 5, 2007

Golden-Curls and How She Kept Silent

Filed under: Czech Republic — Edvan @ 7:25 am

Once upon a time, there was a very poor blacksmith whose worldly possessions were a tumbledown cottage, a wife, a troop of hungry children, and otherwise nothing but seven pence. So with these seven pence he bought himself a stout rope, and went into the forest to hang himself. He found a tall tree with a strong branch, threw the rope over it and began to tie a knot. Suddenly a lady all in black stood before him, as if she had risen up out of the ground.

“Blacksmith, stop that at once,” she commanded.

The blacksmith was so frightened that he untied the rope, and the woman immediately disappeared. As soon as she was gone, he began to tie the rope around the branch again.

But the lady in black reappeared at once, waved a threatening finger at him and snapped, “I told you to stop that, Blacksmith!”

Again the blacksmith untied the rope, and started to make his way home. But on the way he thought to himself, “There’s nothing left for me at home but to die of hunger anyway. I think I’d rather hang myself.”

So again he found a good tree for hanging himself, and tied the rope around a branch. But the lady in black was there at once, shaking with anger. “Why won’t you listen to me, Blacksmith?” she asked.

“What else can I do?” sighed the blacksmith. “I and my family are going to starve anyway.”

“You will not starve,” answered the lady in black, “because I shall give you all the money you could possibly wish for. But in return, you must give me that thing which you have at home, and yet know not that you have.”

The blacksmith could hardly believe his ears, or his eyes, when he saw the sack full of gold coins that the lady handed to him. He thanked her heartily and set off as fast as he could with the heavy sack.

“But don’t forget your promise,” called the lady in black after him. “That which you have at home, yet know not that you have, belongs to me. In seven years I shall come to claim it.”

“I know everything there is in my house,” laughed the blacksmith. “If there’s anything there I don’t know about you’re welcome to it.” And off he went.

When the blacksmith got home he counted the sack of gold coins into a great heap. The family was overjoyed. “Our little Golden-curls has brought us luck,” laughed the blacksmith’s wife, and she showed her husband a beautiful little baby girl with golden hair and a golden star on her forehead. It was the blacksmith’s baby daughter, who had just been born that day. The blacksmith was shocked and saddened. So that was the thing he had at home, which he had not known about!

Well, the years passed and Golden-curls grew into a beautiful little girl, the joy and sorrow of her parents. On her seventh birthday, a black coach stopped outside the cottage and the lady in black stepped from it. “I have come for your little girl,” she said, and led the girl to the coach. The parents and the other children begged her to relent, but the woman was not to be moved. The coachman cracked his whip and in a flash the carriage was gone.

They drove for a long, long time, through barren deserts and dark forests, until at last they reached a huge black castle. “This castle is yours,” said the lady in black. “It has one hundred rooms, all of which you may enter freely, except the hundredth one. Do not enter that, or great evil will befall you. Remember! In seven years’ time I shall visit you again.” And with that, the lady in black drove away.

In exactly seven years to the day the lady in black returned in her carriage. “Have you been into the hundredth room?” was the first thing she asked.

“No, I haven’t,” replied Golden-curls honestly.

“You are a good, obedient girl. In seven years I shall return again, and if you have still obeyed me, I will make you the happiest of girls. But if you step inside that hundredth room, a fate more terrible than death will await you.” With this threat the lady in black rode off again for another seven years.

The seven years passed quickly, and the day came for the lady in black to return. Golden-curls could hardly wait, for she was sure she would be rewarded in some marvelous way for her obedience. Then suddenly she heard strange and beautiful music. “Who can be playing so sweetly in my castle?” she wondered. Following the sounds up a twisting staircase, she came to the topmost room of the castle, the hundredth room, for that was where the music was playing. Without stopping to think she opened the door, and stood there staring, horrified at what she had done.

Inside, twelve men in black cowls were sitting around a great table, and a thirteenth man was standing looking down at her. “Golden-curls, Golden curls, what have you done?” he cried, and his voice echoed like thunder around the stone chamber.

Golden-curls was so terrified that her heart missed several beats. “Whatever can I do?” she wailed.

“You must never, never tell a soul what you have seen in this room. That is the only way you may find forgiveness for what you have done.”

Golden-curls closed the heavy door and went downstairs. Almost at once she heard the lady in black’s carriage rattling up. “What did you see in the hundredth room?” the woman snapped, for she knew at once what had happened.

Golden-curls shook her head and said nothing.

“Very well, if it’s dumb you are then dumb you shall stay! From this moment on you will be able to speak to no one but me.” And saying this the lady in black drove Golden-curls out of the castle.

Golden-curls walked until she could go no further. She came to a beautiful green meadow, lay down on the grass and cried herself to sleep.

Now it happened that the young king of that land, who was out hunting, passed by the meadow and saw Golden-curls lying there asleep. She was so beautiful that he as once fell in love with her, and he didn’t mind at all that she couldn’t speak. He took her to his palace, where a few days later they were married. And so Golden-curls became a queen.

She lived very happily at the castle, and before a year had passed a little boy was born to her, who also had golden hair and a golden star on his forehead. Everyone in the palace was delighted with their new prince.

But the very first night after the baby’s birth, the terrible lady in black appeared at Golden-curls’ bedside, and said in a cruel voice, “Tell me what you saw in the hundredth room, or I’ll kill your little son.”

Poor Golden-curls was terrified, but she remembered what the thirteenth man had said: she must keep silent. So she just shook her head.

Then the woman seized the little baby, strangled him, and rubbed his blood on Golden-curls lips, and vanished with the dead child.

In the morning everyone was horrified when they saw the blood on her face, and they wondered, “Surely she couldn’t have eaten her own child?”

But the king did not accuse her and no one else dared to, and Golden-curls still could not speak.

Another year passed and a little girl was born to Golden-curls. She too had golden hair and a golden star on her forehead. Everyone at the palace was delighted, but they were frightened too, lest the same terrible thing should happen as last time. So the king set a strong guard around Golden-curls’ room, but to no avail.

During the night the lady in black appeared again and said, “Tell me what you saw in the hundredth room, or I’ll kill the girl too.” Golden-curls was beside herself with grief, but she still only shook her head. The woman strangled the little girl, rubbed blood on Golden-curls’ lips, and vanished carrying the dead child.

Next day the palace was thrown into dismay by the news, and the king in a rage gave orders for Golden-curls to be burned at the stake. She wept and wept, but no one now felt the least bit sorry for her.

As they were leading her out beyond the city, the black carriage appeared again, and the lady in black stepped out of it. “This is your last chance to tell me what you saw in the hundredth room,” she cried. “Tell me, or they will most certainly burn you alive.”

Golden-curls still just shook her head and said nothing.

The executioners tied Golden-curls to the stake and lit the fire beneath her. But just as the flames were starting to lick at her feet, the lady in black suddenly became dressed in white, and called out, “Put out the fire! Please, hurry!”

Everyone was astonished, but the executioners quickly doused the flames. The lady in white went to her carriage, and out of it climbed a little boy and girl, both with golden hair and golden stars on their foreheads.

She brought them to Golden-curls, saying, “By keeping silent so steadfastly, you have saved yourself, and you have also saved me, by delivering me from a terrible enchantment.” With that she vanished.

Watching all this the king could hardly believe his eyes or ears, especially when Golden-curls finally spoke to him and told him the whole strange story. They rode straight back to the palace, and lived there long and happily together. The old blacksmith, his wife and all his children came to live with them, and all were blessed with the greatest happiness and good fortune.


The Wood Fairy

Filed under: Czech Republic — Edvan @ 7:17 am

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Betushka. She lived with her mother, a poor widow who had only a tumbledown cottage and two goats. But in spite of this poverty, Betushka was always merry.

From spring to autumn, Betushka drove the goats each day to pasture in a birch wood. Every morning her mother put a slice of bread and an empty spindle into her bag. The spindle would hold the flaxen thread she would spin while she watched the goats. She was too poor to own a distaff on which to wind the flax, so she wound it around her head, to carry it thus to the wood.

“Work hard, Betushka,” her mother always said, “and fill the spindle before you return home.”

Off skipped Betushka, singing along the way. She danced behind the goats into the wood of birch trees and sat down under a tree. With her left hand she pulled fibers from the flax around her head and with her right hand twirled her spindle so that it hummed over the ground. All the time she sang merrily and the goats nibbled the green grass among the trees.

When the sun showed that it was midday, Betushka stopped her spinning. She gave each of the goats a morsel of bread and picked a few strawberries to eat with what remained. After this, she sprang up and danced. The sun shone even more warmly and the birds sang yet more sweetly.
After her dance, Betushka began again to spin busily. At evening when she drove the goats home she was able to hand her mother a spindle full of flaxen thread.

One fine spring day, when Betushka was ready as usual to dance, suddenly there appeared before her a most beautiful maiden. Her white dress floated about her as thin as gossamer, her golden hair flowed to her waist, and a wreath of forest blossoms crowned her head. Betushka was struck silent.

The wood fairy smiled at her and in a sweet voice asked, “Betushka, do you like to dance?”

At this, Betushka lost her fear. “Oh! I could dance all the day long!”

“Come then, let us dance together. I will teach you.” She took Betushka and began to dance with her.

Round and round they circled, while sweet music sounded over their heads. The maiden had called upon the birds sitting in the birch trees to accompany them. Nightingales, larks, goldfinches, thrushes, and a clever mockingbird sang such sweet melodies that Betushka’s heart filled with delight. She quite forgot her goats and her spinning. On and on she danced, with feet never weary, until evening when the last rosy rays of sunset were disappearing. The music ceased and the maiden vanished as suddenly as she had come.

Betushka looked around. There was her spindle — only half filled with thread. Sadly she put it into her bag and drove the goats from the wood. She did not sing while going down the road this time, but reproached herself for forgetting her duty. She resolved that she would not do this again. When she reached home she was so quiet that her mother asked if she were ill.

“No, Mother, I am not ill.” But she did not tell her mother about the lovely maiden. She hid the half-filled spindle, promising herself to work twice as hard tomorrow to make up for today.

Early the next morning Betushka again drove the goats to pasture, singing merrily as usual. She entered the wood and began her spinning, intending to do twice her usual amount.

At noon Betushka picked a few strawberries, but she did not dance. To her goats she said, “Today, I dare not dance. Why don’t you dance, my little goats?”

“Come and dance with me,” called a voice. It was the beautiful maiden.

But this time Betushka was afraid, and she was also ashamed. She asked the maiden to leave her alone. “Before sunset, I must finish my spinning,” she said.

The maiden answered, “If you will dance with me, someone will help you finish your spinning.” With the birds singing beautifully as before, Betushka could not resist. She and the maiden began to dance, and again they danced till evening.

Now when Betushka looked at her nearly empty spindle, she burst into tears. But the maiden unwound the flax from Betushka’s head, twined it around a slender birch tree, seized the spindle, and began to spin. The spindle hummed over the ground and grew thick with thread. By the time the sun had dropped from sight, all the flax was spun. As the maiden handed the full spindle to Betushka, she said, “Wind it and grumble not. Remember, wind it and grumble not.” Then, suddenly, she disappeared.

Betushka, happy now, drove the goats home, singing as she went, and gave her mother the full spindle. Betushka’s mother, however, was not pleased with what Betushka had failed to do the day before and asked her about it. Betushka told her that she had danced, but she kept the maiden a secret.

The next day Betushka went still earlier to the birch wood. The goats grazed while she sang and spun, until at noon the beautiful maiden appeared and again seized Betushka by the waist to dance. While the birds sang for them, the two danced on and on, Betushka quite forgetting her spindle and the goats.

When the sun was setting, Betushka looked around. There was the half-filled spindle! But the maiden grasped Betushka’s bag, became invisible for a moment, then handed back the bag stuffed with something light. She ordered her not to look into it before reaching home, and with these words she disappeared.

Betushka started home, not daring to look into the bag. But halfway there she was unable to resist peeking, for the bag was so light she feared a trick. She looked into the bag, and began to weep. It was full of dry birch leaves! Angrily she tossed some of these out of the bag, but suddenly she stopped — she knew they would make good litter for the goats to sleep on.
Now she was almost afraid to go home. There her mother was awaiting her. “What kind of spindle did you bring me yesterday?” she asked. “I wound and wound, but the spindle remained full. ‘Some evil spirit has spun you,’ I grumbled, and at that instant the thread vanished from the spindle. Tell me what this means.”

Betushka then told her mother about the maiden and their dancing. “That was a wood fairy,” exclaimed her mother, alarmed. “The wood fairies dance at midday and at midnight. If you had been a little boy, you might not have escaped alive. But to little girls, the wood fairies often give rich presents.” Next, she added. “To think that you did not tell me. If I had not grumbled I might have had a room full of thread.”

Betushka then thought of her bag and wondered if there might not, after all, be something under those leaves. She lifted out the spindle and the unspun flax. “Look, Mother!” Her mother looked and clapped her hands. Under the spindle the birch leaves had turned to gold!

Betushka told her mother how the fairy had directed her not to look into the bag until she got home, but that she had not obeyed and had thrown out some of the leaves. “Tis fortunate you did not empty out the whole bagful,” said her mother.

The next morning Betushka and her mother went into the wood, to look carefully over the ground where Betushka had thrown out the dry leaves. Only fresh birch leaves lay there, but the gold that Betushka did bring home was enough for a farm with a garden and some cows. She wore beautiful dresses and no longer had to graze the goats. Nothing, however, gave her such delight as she had had dancing with the wood fairy. Often she ran to the birch wood, hoping to see the beautiful maiden, but never again did the wood fairy appear.

Pot, Cook

Filed under: Czech Republic — Edvan @ 7:14 am

In a village there lived a poor widow with her daughter. They lived in an old house with roof full of holes. They had several hens. The old woman used to go to the forest to fetch some wood in winter and strawberries in summer. Her daughter sold eggs in the town. That was their life.

Once in summer, the mother was ill and the girl had to go to the forest to pick up strawberries. they made gruel of strawberries. She took a pot and a piece of bread and went to the forest. When the pot was full of strawberries, she came to a well, took the bread and began to eat it. It was just noon.

Suddenly an old woman appeared. She looked like a beggar and had a pot in her hand.

“Oh, my girl,” said the woman, “I would like to eat. I have not had even a piece of bread in my mouth since yesterday morning. Would you give me a piece of bread?”

“Why not?” said the girl, “If you are hungry, I will give you all my bread. I hope it is not too hard for you.”

The girl gave the woman all her lunch.

“Thank you very much, my girl, thank you. You were so kind to me and I will give you something too. I will give you this pot. When you give the pot on the table and say: Pot, cook; it will cook so much gruel you want. When you think you have enough gruel, say: Pot, stop; and it will stop cooking. Do not forget what you are to say.”

The old woman gave her the pot and disappeared.

When the girl came home, she said everything to her mother and gave the pot onthe table. Then she said: “Pot, cook.” She wanted to find out if the old woman spoke the truth. Suddenly the gruel began to be cooked in the pot and there was more and more gruel. In the moment the pot was full of gruel. “Pot, stop,” said the girl and it stopped.

They both sat down and ate the gruel.

When they ate all the gruel, the girl took some eggs and went to the town to sell them. She had to be in the town for a long time. She sold the eggs late in the evening.

Her mother waited for her but she was hungry and wanted to have some gruel again. She took the pot, gave it on the table and said: “Pot, cook.” Gruel began to be cook and in a moment the pot was full.

“I will have to bring a bowl and a spoon,” she said to herself and went to the closet.

When she came back, she froze looking at the pot: gruel was running out of the pot to the table, to the chair and to the floor. The woman forgot what to say to make the pot stop cooking!

She gave the bowl on the pot but it fell down and broke. Gruel was running out.

There was so much gruel in the room that the woman had to go out. She lamented: “What did my girl bring to our home? I knew it would not be anything good for us.”

In a while gruel began to run out of the house.

The old woman did not know where to go so she went to the attic and lamented.

There was more and more gruel, it ran to the village and may be it would be running far away if the girl did not return and say: “Pot, stop.”

In the village, there was a hill of gruel and when the farmers wanted to get home, they had to eat the gruel.

Reason and Fortune

Filed under: Czech Republic — Edvan @ 7:08 am

Once Reason met Fortune on a footbridge.

“Let me pass,” said Fortune.

Reason was inexperienced and did not know who should go first and said: “Why should I let you pass? You are not better than me.”

The one who manages to do more,” answered Fortune, “is better. Can you see that boy who ploughs the field? Get inside him and if he is better with you than with me, I will let you pass any time and anywhere we will meet.

Reason agreed and got inside the boy’s head.

When the boy felt reason in his head, he began to think: Why should I plough field all my life? I could be happy somewhere else too.”

He stopped ploughing and went home.

“Daddy,” he said, “I do not like farming, I would like to learn to be a gardener.”

His dad said: “Have you become a fool?” But when he thought it over, he said: “If you want to, Vanek, you can, God be with you. Your brother will inherit our house from me instead of you.”

Vanek lost the house but he did not mind it. He went away and began to learn at the royal gardener. He learnt very quickly and the gardener did not have to teach him much. Soon Vanek began to learn himself and did not need the gardener.

The gardener did not like it but when he saw that everything is being done well, he was satisfied: “I see that you are wiser than me,” he said and let Vanek do everything himself.

The garden was nicer and nicer and the king was very pleased and walked in the garden very often with the queen and their only daughter. The daughter was very beautiful girl but she stopped speaking when she was twelve and nobody heard her to speak since that time. The king was troubled by it very much and announced that who would teach her to speak, becames her husband. Many young kings, princes and dukes came to try it but nobody managed it. The princess was silent.

“Why couldn’t I try it too? Maybe, I will be lucky,” thought Vanek, “I will be asking her, she has to answer me.”

He went to the king and was led to the room where the king’s daughter was. She had a small dog and liked him very much because the dog was very smart and understood everything she wanted.

When Vanek and the king entered the room, he did not even notice the princess but began to talk to the dog: “I heard that you are very smart and I want advice from you. We were three journeymen–a carver, a tailor and me. Once we went through a forest and we had to sleep there. We were scared of wolves so we made fire. Each of us was to watch for some time. Firstly, the carver watched and because he had not much to do. He took a piece of wood and made a nice girl of it. Then he woke the tailor. The tailor saw the girl and asked what it was. ‘You see,’ said the carver, ‘I did not know what to do, so I made this girl. If you want you can make dress for her.’ The tailor took scissors, neddle and thread and began to sew. When the dress was made, he put it on the girl. Then he asked me to watch. I asked what the girl was. ‘You see,’ said the tailor, ‘the carver made this girl and I sewed the dress for her. If you want, you can teach her to speak.’ And I really taught her to speak. In the morning, when they woke up, everybody wanted to have the girl. The carver said: ‘I made her.’ The tailor said: ‘I made dress for her.’ I also wanted to have the girl. Tell me, little dog, who should have the girl?”

The dog was silent but the princess answered instead of him: “Who else than you should have her? What is carver’s girl without life? What is tailor’s dress without speech? You gave her the best gift–life and speech–you should have the girl.”

” You decided about yourself,” said Vanek, “I gave speech and new life to you, so you should be mine.”

One of the king’s counsellor said: “His Majesty will give you a good reward because you managed to give speech to the princess but you cannot marry her, you are not of a noble origin.”

The king said: “You cannot marry her. I will give you a good reward.”

Vanek, however, did not want even hear about the reward: “The king promised: ‘who will make his daughter speak, will marry her.’ The king’s word is law and if the king wants people to behave according to law, he must behave in that way too. The king must give me his daughter.”
“Bind him up,” shouted the counsellor, “he said that the king must do something, he will die.

Your Majesty, his head should be cut.”

The king said: “Cut his head off.”

Vanek was bound up and led to the place of execution. When they came there, Fortune said to Reason: “You see, he is not very well with you, his head will be cut. Get out so I can get into your place.”

When Fortune got inside Vanek, the headsman’s sword broke. Before they brought another sword, the royal bugler came and after him the royal coach.

The king’s daughter said to her father that Vanek was right and the king’s word should not be cancelled and that the king can make duke of Vanek.

The king said: “You are right, he will be the duke.”

They sent a coach for Vanek and istead of Vanek’s head, the head of the counsellor was cut because his advice was not wise.

When there was the wedding reception, Reason came there but seeing he would meet Fortune, he ran away.

Since that time, when Reason meets Fortune, Reason gets away so Fortune can pass.

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